J has some kind of hockey event at least three times a week. Since T was born, being the younger sibling, she’s gets dragged around to all of J’s events – soccer, karate, and hockey.
We didn’t worry about it too much initially. We chalked it up to being an unavoidable symptom of being the younger sibling. It’s either that, or Ry and I would be in separate places taking the kids to their respective activities or hiring someone to shuttle the kids their events.
Out of convenience, T does gymnastics in the same building as J’s hockey. Practice is usually at 4pm. Well before the end of the standard work day, and often before I’m actually done work for the day.
On this particular day I was juggling way too many things. I was on a conference call, getting J’s goalie pads on, and getting T dressed and ready for gymnastics.
As soon as we arrived at the arena she fell apart. “I want fries and ketchup”. She moaned like a starving child. Though she just had snacks in the car on the way over.
“No – you start in 5 minutes, there’s not enough time and I don’t have money today”. I quickly snapped. She broke into tears. I ignored her while I continued wrestling with smelly hockey pads.
She was still crying when I brought her to her gymnastics coach. I handed her red, wet-faced little body to the instructor and explained she was just mad at me for not letting her have another snack and made a mad dash back to getting J ready.
Five minutes later J was dressed and on the ice, and I popped open my laptop to get an hour of work in with no interruptions. I’d peek in on the kids a few times over the hour because I like seeing them rocking it out and to make sure they know I’m there.
Before I even opened Outlook, the gymnastics teacher came up and handed T over like a sack of rotten potatoes, “Hi Mom, Talia isn’t participating today and is just following me around. She did this last week too. I have too many kids to watch to hold her hand during the whole class. I’m really sorry.” She made a sad face and walked away.
My gut reaction was to fire back, “Well what am I paying you for? Bring her ass back out there!”
Instead I shut up and sat her beside me. Just staring at her, not sure what to do next. Hoping for some divine intervention from the parenting gods telling me what to do.
I asked her why she wasn’t doing gymnastics. No answer.
“Do you want to quit?” I asked.
I asked her a few more times, and eventually she said, “Yes. I want to do what you said.” (Meaning quitting).
Without a fuss, I picked her up, took her over to the info desk and said we’re canceling because she doesn’t want to do it anymore. Done. I wasn’t going to force her.
I sat back down with T and she started whining for snacks again. “No snacking!” I told her – “You should be in gymnastics. I’m not here to play. You can go back in there and we can play after.”
One of the workers then came over to me and suggested I stay in class with her. I asked T if this is what she wanted, and she excitedly nodded.
Closed my laptop, took her hand and walked out onto the gym floor.
She was practically bouncing. (She was also literally bouncing because she was on a trampoline.)
Every three seconds she looked at me yelling, “Hi mommy!” waving her little hand off.
She went through class asking her if I was going to watch every single activity. I said yes.
It smacked me right in the face.
She’s had enough of being carted around to J’s activities. She has also had enough of me sitting in the lobby and working instead of watching and waving.
I felt like a huge asshat.
After a few handstands and bridges, she had to pee.
I took her into the bathroom, sat her on the big toilet and crouched down in front of her.
We locked eyes.
We were just staring at each other. No words.
I asked her, “Does it make you sad when I’m not watching you do gymnastics?”
“Yes.” She answered flatly.
Then I started to cry.
As her lower lip quivered, she asked, “What’s wrong mommy?”
“For not watching you in gymnastics. I’m so sorry. I’m going to watch you every time. Do you forgive me?”
Me with a shocked look on my face…what? You don’t forgive me?
“What does forgive mean?”
“It means that even though I did something bad, it means you can forget about it and still love me.”
“I forgive you.”
I hugged her little body so tight exploding with gratitude. I’m so lucky I have you.
Let’s get back out there.
I can’t do it all
I had yet another reminder. This one was a smack in the face. Another example of me trying to do it all, even though I know I can’t. I need constant reminders that I can’t really have it all [whatever all means anyway] – nor should I try.
Today’s lesson, was if I’m going to show up, just fucking show up. Put the distractions away and be there.
Even if I find it boring to watch half a dozen preschoolers picking wedgies while they do summersaults and bounce around. I’m going to do it.